When Deaf people go to vote tomorrow (that is, those of us who haven’t already participated in early voting), we will have many of the same concerns that all other Americans have. The economy. The war in Iraq. The economy. Health care. Creating jobs. Oh, wait, that’s the economy again.
But, of course, in addition to all these other concerns, we also worry about which presidential candidate really understands the needs of Deaf Americans, or the needs of people with disabilities in general. We need a president who understands that social welfare is not the only item on the agenda of Deaf people or people with disabilities. We also care very much about accessibility and human rights.
Can a man who sees only the limitations in disability, and not the accommodations that could work around them, understand the salience and importance of accessibility and human rights for Americans with disabilities? Can a man who assumes a disability–even his own, caused by war injuries–automatically means “cannot do” understand why human right laws matter for people with disabilities? You decide for yourself. Here’s a video on McCain’s apparent assumption that his war injuries supposedly make it impossible for him to use a computer. And yes, it is unabashedly a pro-Obama video, though the Obama message doesn’t come until the end.
If McCain had simply said, “I just don’t understand new fangled technology, and that’s why I don’t do email,” I could have understood that. There are plenty of older Americans who have not managed to become comfortable with the Internet. My own parents-in-law only sporadically use the Internet. My grandmother, if I recall correctly, never used the computer at all before she died a few years ago. Certainly I know she never got an email account. I don’t think it’s so terrible to have a president who isn’t comfortable using email personally, just as long as he understands the importance of the Internet for everyone else and the economy as a whole.
But when he tries to claim that he can’t use computers because his hands won’t let him, then I’m considerably less impressed. This makes me think he hasn’t learned about the full range of possible options that technology has opened up to people with disabilities of all sorts. This makes me think he sees the limitations as being inherent to his impairment when most of his perceived “limitations” are actually created by his poorly designed environment.
If he can’t even understand that distinction, then how can he understand the importance of strengthening the Americans with Disabilities Act so that it has real teeth? How can he understand the importance of expanding the range of human rights protections afforded to Deaf people and people with disabilities through actions such as signing the
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?
No, this video wasn’t a “make or break” moment for me. And I don’t expect it to be for you either. I know I had already made up my mind for Obama well before this, for a long list of reasons–including the fact that I think he would be better for the economy than McCain, and the fact that he was the only candidate who even cared about voters with disabilities enough to bother having his staff write up a truly comprehensive disability platform. I’m sure most of you have already decided who you’ll vote for. Or if you haven’t, you’ll be looking for something more substantive than this to sway you.
But, what the hey. I still like this video. And even if you don’t like the pro-Obama message at the end, I still think the first part of the video makes a worthwhile point–relevant to all Deaf Americans, Americans with disabilities, and the people who know us.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 8 so far )